“With the 60th and final pick of the NBA draft, the Los Angeles Lakers select center, Robert Sacre from Gonzaga University.”
Thus began the career of Robert Sacre, the towel waving, backup center. In Sacre’s first season, he was nothing more than the team’s loudest cheerleader. He could be seen waving a towel with a furor unseen by most NBA players. He was the first to jump up after a monster dunk, and treated normal plays as if they were straight out of an NBA dunk contest. With a strong desire to contribute and a plethora of injuries (as well as refusal by Mike D’Antoni to play Chris Kaman and Jordan Hill at times), Sacre found himself playing a significant role.
In 16.8 minutes per game, Sacre averaged 5.4 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. D’Antoni often played or started Sacre because he believed the Gonzaga graduate gave the Lakers a more defensive minded presence in the paint. It was undeniable, Sacre did give the Lakers a center who was willing to play defense and be physical, unlike Gasol or Kaman. Sacre’s offense, on the other hand, was another story. While he did show some promise, scoring a career high 15 points on two different occasions, Sacre all too often showed up in the box score with 2, 3, or 0 points.
Prior to the season, Lakers’ owner Jim Buss stated that he believed Sacre had the talent and ability to be a reliable back up center in the league for a long time. It seems that his prediction will come true. Sacre worked incredibly hard and earned himself a two-year contract following his rookie season. Think of it this way – Sacre is one of three Lakers who is under a guaranteed contract for next season. That means the team clearly believes in him, and for the right seasons.
Despite lacking supreme athleticism or even great size (for a center), Sacre has worked incredibly hard to develop into a reliable big off the bench. The role of a backup player, particularly a backup center, is frequently under appreciated and often criticized. Sacre fills every need you would have from a bench player: hardworking, physical, driven, reliable and team oriented. While the repeated celebrations can be over the top at times, the passion and energy brought by those actions are something the Lakers haven’t seen in a long time. He was willing to understand he may not receive the most playing time, but he was going to prove he wanted to be there and he wanted his team to succeed.
Perhaps the most memorable and most bizarre moment of the Lakers season involved Robert Sacre. In a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers where the Lakers were already down the 7 active players, Jordan Farmar left the game with an injury and Chris Kaman had fouled out. Sacre himself was in foul trouble and committed his 6th foul, a move that should have left the Lakers with only 4 eligible players. Due to a little used rule, Sacre was allowed to stay in the game, but any of his following fouls would result in a technical, plus the foul. The Lakers held on for a 119-108 victory.
Sacre’s season can be described as a personal success, despite being a complete failure for the team. Sacre improved in every aspect of the game, something very few 2nd year players can say. He may not be flashy, but he is certainly good at his role. He knows his role and embraces it willingly. Every young, fringe players should take note of Sacre’s career and try to emulate his professionalism.